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The Alien on My Back
I sat on an itchy, polyester chair. The waiting room was dingy and empty except for my family and the staff. This was the fitting room for my back brace, something I would need to wear for twenty hours a day; for a year. I had scoliosis, which meant my spine is bent instead of straight. I actually wasn’t dreading wearing it. In my mind, it was a small and corset-like. I thought it might give me the illusion of curves, which my gawky, twelve year old body had none of.
“You can come in now!” said a twenty-something girl in butterfly patterned scrubs. Her nametag said Cindy. She gave me an I-am-so-glad-I’m-not-you-right-now smile. We stood up and followed her down the long hallway. She led us into a brightly lit room.
I took a seat on the little blue bed at the edge of the wall. The starchy white paper that lay across it crinkled under my weight. There were posters of the human body and casted legs on the walls.
“Let me go get your brace!” Cindy exclaimed cheerfully. She left the room.
I was really nervous to see what it was like. I knocked my bony knees together anxiously. I pulled at a thread on the T-shirt I had on. Cindy came back.
At that moment everything stood still. My breathing stopped, my mouth dropped in horror. My throat started to hurt as I held back the urge to cry. Cindy carried a huge white contraption. It looked alien-like, like a U.F.O. had just come down and delivered it.
“Well, here it is, if you could just stand up so I can show you how to put it on.” Cindy said. I grimaced. My parents smiled encouragingly at me, but I could see that they were shocked as well. It was so hideous… and gigantic. It looked like it was made for a 600 pound man, and not a 90 pound girl.
I stood up slowly and walked over to Cindy. She undid three huge Velcro straps at the back of it. It smelled like burning rubber. She expanded it and put it around me. I knocked on it with my hand; it made a hollow sound. She did up the straps.
“It might feel a little uncomfortable for the first few days.” She said gently.
I bit down on my lip, hard, to keep from screaming. The pain was unbearable. It was exactly like having your braces tightened; only it was shifting around your whole back.
I walked over to the mirror. The huge apparatus went right up to my armpits and ended at my hips. It pushed into the buttons of my jeans; I could already feel the indents in my skin. My pale blue eyes stared back at me, wide and scared. My mouth quivered. A fat, lone tear slid down my cheek.
I left in excruciating pain. My mom and I drove over to the mall and I pulled a big shirt I’d brought over my head. I had never hurt this bad, physically or emotionally.
The automatic doors opened as I self consciously walked into the mall. It felt like the whole world was staring at me. We went over to a girl’s clothing store. The store smelled like bubblegum and a Taylor Swift song played on the radio. Taylor Swift doesn’t have to wear a brace, I thought to myself. Young girls bustled around the store, talking and texting. They were all wearing cute clothes, something that I wouldn’t be able to do for a whole year. My mom tried to make small talk as I looked around, but I was just too miserable. I brought ten shirts into the change room. The first one I tried on was a black T-shirt with adorable purple robots on it. I pulled it over my brace and faced the mirror.
I burst out crying. The shirt was too tight, and I looked like a giant square. The robot design did not help at all. I looked like I had dressed up as a robot for Halloween. I violently tugged the shirt off.
I grumpily left the store, with a few ugly shirts in a shopping bag. I was so upset, and my body ached. As the automatic doors opened at the exit, I saw a mentally handicapped girl in a wheelchair. She was no older than me; her neck fell to one side, making her glasses appear lopsided. She murmured unintelligible words to her mom in a sloppy voice, her mom smiled cheerfully at her. For a few moments, my self-pitying ceased. Even though I had just bought huge, unfashionable clothes, and I would have to go through what most teenagers would call Hell, at that moment I smiled. I was thankful that I had a brace to fix my condition, because I knew that girl, and so many others around the world, would be ecstatic to have a problem as small as mine.